Students bring a rural voice to education

Darcy Merchant and Claire Wright will be participating in the Rural Youth Ambassador program.
Darcy Merchant and Claire Wright will be participating in the Rural Youth Ambassador program.

Two Canowindra High School students will be taking part in the first Rural Youth Ambassador program in NSW.

The program, which began in Victoria ten years ago, was developed by the Country Education Partnership to provide young people in rural and remote communities with the opportunity to develop their leadership skills and provide a voice on rural and remote education to government and education sectors.

The program was extended into South Australia and NSW this year following a recommendation made in the Independent Review of Regional, Rural and Remote Education to the Federal Government.

Both Darcy and Claire said they were looking forward to being involved in the program.

"We heard about it through our Year Advisor, Ms Balcombe," Darcy said.

"She was really good, she brought the program up during the Year meeting and approached a few of the kids to see what we thought."

"We read a bit more about and thought it sounded interesting and applied for it," Claire said.

The program involves four face to face forums take place in Capital centres and Regional Centres over the course of the year.

During these forums, the Rural Youth Ambassadors will be involved in a range of leadership development activities, conversations focused on rural and remote life and learning; involved in presentations to senior education sector people; meet with Ministers for Education; meet with philanthropy organisations and key stakeholder groups; as well as present at education workshops, forums and conferences

Both girls said they were hoping to get greater leadership skills out of the program.

"Being able to talk to people but having the opportunity to share your ideas and be really listened to," Darcy said.

"That is a really good skill we can get out of this."

"It also gives us a voice within our school community, local community and state," Claire said.

"Yes we do have SRC and school captains but this is from a different perspective and we can focus on ideas and problems we see.

"Well have a voice and we'll learn how to use it on a bigger scale."

Both girls encouraged students below them to consider taking part in the program when they can.

"Definitely get involved, so far we've only had one forum but it's been good," they said.

"Getting to know people, skills like leadership and communication, are good for any student.

"They said in the introduction 'just use your voice', 'you need to think outside of the box'. Even if you have no confidence you'll come out with that and new skills."

The girls thanked their teachers for their support so far and hoped fellow students might bring them ideas to bring up at the forum.

"On behalf of Claire and I, we'd really like to thank Ms Balcombe and Ms Smurthwaite for supporting us getting into the program," Darcy said.

"They put a lot of effort into it and we appreciate it so much. It's really nice to see a school get involved," Claire said.

"If they weren't behind us then it feels like nobody wants you to do it, so it's really good to have a team behind you and pushing you.

"Ms Balcombe is always saying 'come on girls get involved'."

"If anyone sees anything that needs to be addressed we can help get that point across and express it to the people who share similar mindsets," they said.